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Re: Model 1884 Springfield Rifle

Posted by John S. on Saturday, 6 May 2017, at 7:35 p.m., in response to Re: Model 1884 Springfield Rifle, posted by donna bates on Saturday, 6 May 2017, at 2:00 p.m.

Donna- The usage information cited is from the many decades of digging into surviving records in the National Archives by the late Frank Mallory of Springfield Research Service, assisted with tidbits from several other scholars who regularly worked in the types of records where such data pops up on a very infrequent basis.

Mallory's work is exceptionally useful, but alas, there is nearly zero chance that any significant number of additional documents will ever be found. Most are from Company Record Books which were temporary records and usually discarded when a unit disbanded or a new book was started. Such books might have a hundred or so numbers for the rifles assigned to that company, sometimes with individual names associated with them, and for a limited time period. Other sources include various letters concerning a handful of arms shipped somewhere, lost, repaired, stolen, reported as defective, or in some cases sold to individuals or businesses. There is no "serial number record list" in the archives, just waiting to be used by scholars.

So, usage information is sparse, and often not very interesting, but some guns (not necessarily trapdoors) can be documented as used by Teddy Roosevelt's Rough Riders, or salvaged from the wreck of the USS Maine which makes collectors really happy!

Scholars like Dr. Frasca have worked in the weekly production records at Springfield Armory and collected other data and can pretty well tell from the serial number when a gun was made and if the inspector's cartouche date is correct or not. (See "production data" in the first large table on the main page of this site.) However, parts were not used in the same exact sequence they were made so there are exceptions to the general patterns.

Later, when arms were issued to military units (often militia/National Guard) parts got switched during cleaning or for other reasons. Switching to the latest model of sights was not unusual. Many were arsenal overhauled after the Spanish American War, resulting in mixed part. More switching took place later by surplus dealers or collectors, so mixed parts are common and often defy any logical explanation.

Remember, these were tools made for use by soldiers to defend our country, and remained in use for a long time being repaired or updated as needed. These were not intended to be locked away untouched for future collectors, although many in fact remained virtually untouched in their original crates until the 1930s. After leaving military service these were fair game for conversion to hunting rifles or drill rifles for military schools, and had little appeal to collectors since you could always go buy another new one if you wanted one.

Hope that helps.


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